A shady Lane, everybody wants one

I’m going to keep this one polite, in hopes that I can get the Washington Post’s Charles Lane to reply to my critique. Today, Michael Kinsley replies to Paul Krugman’s critique of Kinsley’s Harvard dining hall contrarianism with a column that, if I’m reading it right, says (a) I am not a sadist, (b) you are a jerk for calling me a sadist, and (c) therefore your anti-austerity ideas are “probably wrong”.

Austerian Charles Lane has been tweeting about this all afternoon, e.g.:

I have emailed Charles Lane several times, albeit not particularly politely, and unlike most of the national journalists I’ve emailed (rarely politely), he has never replied. I will tweet him to ask for a comment on this.

Charles Lane has consistently written in favor of austerity. This is a position that is primarily staked out by conservatives. He has also written various things that suggest he favors conservative presidential candidates. Here he is comparing Sarah Palin to Sandra Day O’Connor, wondering:

Maybe there’s something about growing up in a challenging, male-dominated physical environment (desert, tundra), in a family where everyone’s expected to get his or her job done (and there’s no time for drama, fuss or introspection), that turns certain girls into very confident women…

And here is his electoral college prediction on the eve of the 2012 election:

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 7.19.15 PM

It includes NH and WI as “toss-ups”. These are states that Obama won by 6 and 7 points, respectively. Likewise, it includes OR as only “leans Obama” (apparently on the basis of one poll where Romney was close); Obama won OR by 12 points. (EDIT: Also too, CO “leans Romney” for Lane but Obama won by 5.5).

Lane’s pro-austerity, anti-Krugman articles rarely contain any numerical figures, and thus they cannot be judged from a strict quantitative perspective; they typically glorify some ostensibly pro-austerity dead intellectual luminary, like economist James Buchanan or political scientist Mancur Olson, but without numbers or measurement of any kind.

Given the absence of any quantitative evidence in favor of austerity in Lane’s columns, the absence of any comment from Lane on why he supports austerity, and the existence of much evidence that Lane favors conservative politicians, it hardly unfair to conclude that it is possible Lane favors austerity simply because he favors conservative policies more generally.

I suppose the reply, if there is one, will be “I don’t always vote for Republicans!” But what does that prove? Until austerians like Lane do better than (a) eat your spinach or (b) Paul Krugman is a meanie or (c) dead luminary X probably would have liked austerity, I will continue to question their motives for supporting austerity.

But I’ll wait for reply from Lane (I encourage you to contact him via Twitter as well) before reaching any firm conclusions.






87 replies
  1. 1
    BGinCHI says:

    I’m not sure that Charles Lane — AKA Second Lady of the American Theater — has any motives beyond the desire for attention and the drive to profit from American success by being as selfish as possible.

  2. 2

    Motive of the Austerians : More for me and none for you. Take it away Austerity Cat.

  3. 3
    azrev says:

    The strength of western women has nothing to do with being dominated by males.

  4. 4
    Corner Stone says:

    Did Yakov Smirnoff write this post?

  5. 5
    Poopyman says:

    Well … good luck! I don’t really see what he has to gain by replying to you.

  6. 6

    Kinsley thinks that “the national debt is a huge problem and we have to do something about it RIGHT NOW” is something you’re not allowed to say? Has he seen a Sunday morning show or read a newspaper or watched C-SPAN any time in the last 5 years?

  7. 7
    aimai says:

    I think the argument that you owe some people column space and a quote is really all about status and power. He’s basically arguing that when someone is a “name” and a “brand” like Kinsley is you owe them the right to shape their image.

    Now, whether a person has the right to attribute base motives to a public actor about his public positions? That’s a judgement call. I think someone is fair game if they are, in fact, pushing a policy they have to face the fact that people are going to attribute motives to them for doing so and those motives aren’t always going to be assumed to be noble or disinterested.

    But Krugman’s original point was that there were such people as Austerians–I don’t think he labled Kinsley specifically. And Kinsley’s response was “I’m an Austerian and I’m a nice guy.” Everyone always thinks they are nice and their motives are pure–what is Krugman supposed to do with the information that Kinsley reads himself into Krugman’s condemnation of generic Austerians and then gets up on his high horse. If the shoe fits: wear it. If it does not fit? You can acquit–yourself.

    No, Krugman does not have to call up Kinsley to ask him to explain what a nice guy he is. Kinsley has as much real estate as Krugman does and can defend his position as he chooses. He’s a public figure–he’s entitled to less deference, not more.

  8. 8
    Baud says:

    My guess is Lane’s motive is that people in his chosen social circle support austerity.

  9. 9
    NotMax says:

    So you’re questioning his motives and asking for comment.

    Uh-huh. Good luck with that ploy.

  10. 10

    like the frequent Pavement references DMJ.

    it’s everybody’s God.

  11. 11
    PeakVT says:

    Krugman isn’t a reporter, he’s a economist who’s become a columnist.

  12. 12
    burnspbesq says:

    It’s been clear for some time that you disagree, but many people view politeness as a feature rather than a bug.

  13. 13

    I would like to know the annual income from investments of the proponents of austerity in the media. Then we can determine how much of their austerity mongering is selfless.

  14. 14
    dm says:

    I wonder what Lane was taught in journalism school about getting one’s facts straight?

    Lane’s tweet today is particularly ironic, given Krugman’s blog post yesterday: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c.....lus-again/

    Summary: Perhaps before ascribing opinions to Krugman, he should perhaps read the last couple of columns Krugman had written to see if Krugman had expressed an opinion himself.

  15. 15
    TBogg says:

    Charles Lane once wrote a column saying he didn’t really see any “shovel ready ” projects that needed to be done because he and his family had recently taken a road trip across this great land of ours and all the roads seemed perfectly serviceable.

    I am not kidding.

  16. 16

    @burnspbesq: I agree with you about the role of politeness in personal life. However do you think one needs to be polite to the people who give cover to the people who are out to destroy you? Which is exactly what the MSM pundits do day in and day out. They give rhetorical cover to the insane and destructive Republican policies. In this case, austerity during a slow down.

  17. 17
    Doug Milhous J says:

    @burnspbesq:

    I definitely disagree on this. Genghis Kahn didn’t say

    The greatest happiness is to politely refute your friend David’s argument, and mildly befuddle him before you, to see his claims quietly contradicted.

    It’s a Genghis Khan world, we’re just living in it.

  18. 18
    NickT says:

    Charles Lane was trained as a journalist?

    By what – a wandering Vandal horde that got bored of the burning and pillaging?

  19. 19
    Suffern ACE says:

    Lol. When I read krugman’s column, I was shocked to read that he…named…names! That just isn’t done in those pages. Not by liberals. Rarely by brooks the doyghthat! This could get interesting.

  20. 20
    geg6 says:

    Lane channeling Kinsley:

    Respect mah authoritah!

    Fuck them. Neither Charles Lane nor Michael Kinsley have ever gotten anything right in my memory. When it comes to economics, I trust Krugman since he’s been proven right over and over again throughout the past decade or so. When either Lane or Kinsley have shown exactly why the austerians are right or deserve any sort of respect for their theories (and no, their feeling about them as people don’t count), they should shut the fuck up and risk being thought stupid rather then continue bloviating and prove that they are.

  21. 21
    Baud says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    FWIW, as a general rule, I don’t think liberals do either civil or uncivil rhetoric very well, so IMHO it just seems like the problem is that we’re being too polite or too aggressive, depending on your point of view.

  22. 22
  23. 23
  24. 24
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Who the fuck is Charles Lane? This seems like one I should know – is he the homocidal little demon doll from the movies?

  25. 25
    jl says:

    @PeakVT:

    And that Krugman is not a reporter is so obvious, it almost seems like Kinsley and Lane have decided to demonstrate Krugman’s charges are true.

    I don’t remember Krugman writing a column that said Kinsley or any Austerian’s or counterintuitivaran’s motive were purely sadistic, or even mostly sadistic. Krugman specifically said in one of the posts that it was probably as much the desire to appear intrepid and tough as anything else.

    So, today’s column contained the very specific charges of
    sloppiness
    and
    trivial self absorption (edit: specifically in making it like a HS debating team status game) in dealing with serious issues where lives and great suffering were at stake.

    It’s like these two want to make Krugman’s case for them.
    (Edit: so, are Kinsely and Lane in the PAY of Krugman, are they ringers… ehhh? I smell a conspiracy!)

    DougJ should have spent the time trying to learn how to wiggle his ears to a good Grateful Dead song, or something else more useful.

  26. 26

    @Just Some Fuckhead: A columnist worse than Bobo, according DougJ. Having never read anything by Lane, I just have to take DougJ’s word for it.

  27. 27
    geg6 says:

    @burnspbesq:

    And why exactly would anyone be polite to people who actively support wanting millions of people to suffer and die because they think they must pay for the crimes of the tax cheats, banksters, and pyramid schemers who own our economy, government and media?

    Oh, wait…forgot who I was talking to.

  28. 28
    Baud says:

    @raven:

    Thanks. I hadn’t seen that before.

  29. 29
    jamick6000 says:

    In journalism, or so I was taught as young reporter, you do not speculate on people’s motivations. You call them up and ask for comment

    *dials phone* “Hi Michael, it’s New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, are you a sadist?”

  30. 30
    Baud says:

    @jamick6000:

    That was funny.

  31. 31
    mainmati says:

    @PeakVT: I agree but he’s still a serious economist, does original research and teaching. The opinionating is a sideline – albeit a very good gig for him. I like him because, as a former high school debater and now an economist, he knows how to assemble an argument and to wittily and accurately provide rebuttals to his opponents usually content-free arguments.

  32. 32
    jl says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I have read Lane’s columns when one of the front posters this august political forum has brought them to my attention as a danger to public mental health.

    From what I can tell, Lane has devolved into a person too lazy to check even the most basic facts about his subject matter, and who shows no ability to think straight and seems to be functionally innumerate. (notice how I carefully avoid questioning his motives).

    So, in some ways, probably worse than Brooks. I think it is waste of time trying to get his attention for any kind of useful argument or in an attempt to edify. He is the epitome of a self satisfied mean spirited bigoted boor. A true one hundred percent boor, which is rarer than most people think.

  33. 33
    patroclus says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Charles Lane was played by Peter Sarsgaard in Shattered Glass – he was”Chuck,” the editor at TNR who replaced the Clinton-hating and warmongeror Michael Kelly, who wrote thoughful pieces about Haiti and struggled to deal with Stephen Glass’s falsifications. Everyone liked him then, but since then, he’s become a Fox regular and parrots right-wing talking points for money. To my knowledge, he’s never really written much on economics, but in his latest gig, he can be expected to parrot whatever the right wing talking points are, which currently favor deficit hawkitude. This is despite the fact the economy is picking up steam, the deficit projections are falling dramatically, medical costs have been trending towards far less exponential growth and we’ve already done the austerity bit with the tax raises at the beginning of the year and the sequestration later.

    Lately, though, Fox has gone all made-up scandal mongering all-the-time, so perhaps Lane had some leeway to actually say what he thinks. We’ll see…

  34. 34
    YellowJournalism says:

    @burnspbesq: You may catch more flies with honey, but it’s not as satisfying as the smack of the fly swatter.

  35. 35
    jl says:

    @patroclus:

    ” Lane had some leeway to actually say what he thinks. ”

    But if what you say is true, his line of prostitution is so boring, and his commitment to it merely for the sake of money is so total, who cares what he really thinks? I guess maybe there’s some clinical interest for devotees of distasteful mentalities.

    IF, what you say is true, of course. Lane is delicate and and prissy and I wouldn’t want to violate any J school standards here.

  36. 36
    JWL says:

    The simpleton “you never question anyone’s motives” crowd are word weasels.

    They’re the same fools and apparatchiks that continue to provide cover for the Bush-Cheney big lie traitors that maneuvered this country into War a mere 10 years ago.

  37. 37
    srv says:

    Doug, in order to get a reply from a sociopath, you have to embarrass them. Krugman knows how to troll them.

    Stop being nice. Start writing “By what objective measure is Charles Lane not evil?”

  38. 38
    jl says:

    @TBogg:

    ” Charles Lane once wrote a column saying he didn’t really see any “shovel ready ” projects that needed to be done because he and his family had recently taken a road trip across this great land of ours and all the roads seemed perfectly serviceable. ”

    See? Pure boor, there. Absolute registered pure bred boor.

    But I question the vile and sadistic TBogg’s motives in allowing me to miss that comment when I first read the thread. Why is TBogg so sloppy? You think this is game or something, buddy?

  39. 39
    eemom says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    However do you think one needs to be polite to the people who give cover to the people who are out to destroy you? Which is exactly what the MSM pundits do day in and day out. They give rhetorical cover to the insane and destructive Republican policies.

    So fucking THIS.

    Also too, does DougJ “keeping this one polite” mean that I can’t say that Charles Lane is just another tedious know nothing emmessemm twat who isn’t worth the pixels he’s printed on, and why the fuck do you bother with him, in this comment? Oops.

  40. 40
    Roger Moore says:

    @burnspbesq:

    It’s been clear for some time that you disagree, but many people view politeness as a feature rather than a bug.

    You should try it some time.

  41. 41
    Doug Milhous J says:

    @eemom:

    No, only the post was trying to be polite, not the comments.

  42. 42
    PeakVT says:

    @jl: Seems like j-school doesn’t spend enough time teaching reporters the (negative) meaning of the word “solipsism”.

  43. 43
    jl says:

    @Doug Milhous J:

    Just questioning his motives appears to be out of bounds if you both are to meet on the honored field of the J school code. What is with this ‘polite’ stuff?

    Anyway, he’s not worth it DougPoliteJ, leave him for a man who’ll treat you better. Save yourself.

  44. 44
    Chris says:

    @aimai:

    I think the argument that you owe some people column space and a quote is really all about status and power. He’s basically arguing that when someone is a “name” and a “brand” like Kinsley is you owe them the right to shape their image.

    Yeah, that’s what I thought when I read that “you’re SUPPOSED to call them up and ask THEM what their motivations are.” Yeah, because the single most objective and truthful source about a person’s motivations will always be that person, amirite? And even if they’re not, it’s certainly not the press’ job to point out when they’re full of shit.

  45. 45
    Keith G says:

    I’m going to keep this one polite, in hopes that I can get the Washington Post’s Charles Lane to reply to my critique.

    It highly possible that this ship has already sailed, due to:

    I have emailed Charles Lane several times, albeit not particularly politely….

    Your online persona is likely not his cup of tea. Them’s da breaks.

  46. 46
    patroclus says:

    @jl: What I mean is that Lane is free to weigh in on the Austerity debate between Kinsley and Krugman – he can come out in favor of austerity (like Kinsley) or he criticize austerians for causing the European recession and being contrary to Keynes-recommended expansionary policies to cure slow growth periods. So far, all he’s done is be a member of the civility police. Doug is giving him a chance to actually state his views. I don’t necessarily care because Lane isn’t an economic expert and, given his recent history, Lane seems likely to merely parrot some right wing talking points. But if he wants to participate in the debate, this is his chance.

    In Kinsley’s article, Michael claims that he’s been doing the liberal thing for decades and that he’s some sort of “left wing austerian” who wants to raise taxes. Uh, no. Kinsley has never been much of a liberal or else he wouldn’t have failed to respond hundreds of times to Pat Buchanan’s daily outrageous statements (MK’s preferred response was merely to say “please” every time Buchanan let loose his usual broadside). Rather, Kinsley, in my view, is more of a neo-liberal contrarian who self-identifies as a liberal but never seems to argue in favor of a liberal position. He says he’s for marriage equality, but instead of stating a positive case, he defends Ben Carson’s homophobic comments. He says he’s liberal on economics but argues for austerity whilst emerging from a recession and baits Paul Krugman. In internet parlance, Kinsley is a concern troll – and he’s not really very good at that either. He’s not malicious, in my view, but he’s rarely if ever very helpful.

  47. 47
    David Koch says:

    BWHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH

    Stoopid dumb mutherfucker had Colorado going outright to Mittens, a state Obummer won by 5.5 points.

    Math, how does it work?

  48. 48

    @eemom: Thanks eemom.

    OT: BTW I has a new comix, I plays Scrabble. My kitteh stars in it. Is my first attempt. Will appreciate any feedback.
    Kthxbai.

  49. 49
    RSA says:

    Needs more bile.

    (Actually, I thought it was well-done with respect to politeness, a good hook for a response.)

  50. 50
    jl says:

    @Chris: Well, you don’t seem to understand that being a famous pundit/reporter consists of waiting for important people to phone you and give you some air worthy dish. You sure you understand journalism’s all about?

  51. 51
    jamick6000 says:

    i read the kinsey thing and my my non-substance beef with it is this:

    he admits right up front that he writes stuff to provoke people. then he goes on and on complaining about how mean and unfair people are after he’s pissed them off. obviously this is trying to have your cake and eat it too.

    he just writes stuff to get attention and that’s it. i think that’s the main motivation of people like Kinsey and it explains why most of their work is so vacuous.

  52. 52
    JustRuss says:

    I’ve said it before: The overlap between torture-defenders and austerity-lovers is far too huge to be a coincidence.

  53. 53
    eemom says:

    @David Koch:

    Stoopid dumb mutherfucker had Colorado going outright to Mittens, a state Obummer won by 5.5 points.

    Well that, sir, is all the more reason that we here in the reality-based world should dignify whatever dumb shit he said about another emmessemm know nothing blowhard with serious inquiries and polite requests for response, is it NOT?

  54. 54
    jamick6000 says:

    @JustRuss: whoa, that is a very good point

  55. 55
    patroclus says:

    @jamick6000: I agree, but I think Kinsley is not so much trying to piss “people” off, he’s trying to piss liberals off. Then, having done so and despite not arguing the liberal position, he tries to claim that he’s the better liberal. This is classic neo-liberal contrarian concern trolling – if he were merely a BJ commenter, that would be his shtick. But he’s oh-so-much above us – he’s Michael Kinsley for God’s sake – and we can’t be mean to him because he’s such a good liberal.

  56. 56
    trollhattan says:

    @TBogg:

    Bastard must drive a Lexus Pillow 5000XLT.

  57. 57
    RepubAnon says:

    @mainmati: Shouldn’t journalists also know the difference between an opinion piece and a fact article? For example, how often did columnists writing opinion pieces call Al Gore and ask about the “I invented the Internet” zombie lie?

  58. 58

    @jamick6000: That’s the schtick of Slate. Wasn’t Kinsley the editor of Slate for a while? Isn’t it funny how their edgy and contrarian stances always seem to comfort the comfortable.

  59. 59
    trollhattan says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    I’m not up on him either. I”m guessing he’s mathematically 1/Diane Lane.

    Or yet another McMegan.

  60. 60
    trollhattan says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    David Broder’s chair still needs filling and there are a lot of butts wanting to plant there. One presumes Kinsley’s butt is in the queue.

  61. 61

    @trollhattan: Thank God, because 1/McMegan would be a singularity.

  62. 62
    Todd says:

    The Tree of Liberty is watered with the blood of toddlers, redux.

    http://www.wpsdlocal6.com/home.....65361.html

  63. 63
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Charles Lane: high priority tumbrel rider.

  64. 64
    matt says:

    So Charles Lane thinks Krugman is a reporter? Is he stupid?

  65. 65
    matt says:

    If Krugman is to be judged as a reporter, is Charles Krauthammer to be subjected to the same treatment? They both appear on the op/ed page, what’s the standard here? Or is Charles Lane only the protector of journalism from liberal voices?

  66. 66
    Suffern ACE says:

    @matt: Charles Krauthammer is a trained psychologist and he’s seen what you wrote, well at least a few sentences, and he finds your behavior troubling. Pathological even.

  67. 67
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @TBogg:

    Lane is yet another dumbshit who doesn’t understand logistics (which includes maintenance). Why should anyone be surprised?

  68. 68
    eemom says:

    When I am dead from Teh Stoopid of which I would not know but for these blog posts, I hope somebody is satisfied.

  69. 69
    NickT says:

    @eemom:

    ‘We can’t get no SATISFACTION…’

  70. 70
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    Worse — he’s a trained psychiatrist. M.D. and everything.

  71. 71
    Kay says:

    I feel pretty good, austerity-wise, right now because more and more it seems like a real political loser.

    They had a window, but it’s closing.

    Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to have exclusively pampered and/or wildly wealthy people promoting sacrifice for others, after all.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with making them deny they’re sadists.

  72. 72
    gogol's wife says:

    I must insist that Charles Lane is the greatest character actor who ever lived. I refuse to acknowledge the existence of this impostor.

  73. 73
    NickT says:

    @Kay:

    Supposedly LBJ was planning to portray an opponent as someone who had sex with barnyard animals. One of LBJ’s aides said, “We can’t prove he’s a pig fucker.” “I know that,” replied Johnson. “I just want to hear him deny it.”

  74. 74
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Kinsley was indeed editor of Slate when it started out, as a Microsoft web project.

  75. 75
    Mike E says:

    @patroclus:

    we can’t be mean to him because he’s our better such a good liberal.

    Fix’t.

  76. 76
    Hugely says:

    yay a title I can get on-board with – as much as I like Stones and Floyd titles we finally get some 90’s tunes.

  77. 77
    Walker says:

    A lot of conservatives get up in arms about “ad hominem attacks.” But what they refuse to understand is that, if you make an argument from authority, a personal attack is not an ad hominem. It is an attack on their authority and in that case a logically valid argument.

  78. 78
    MikeJ says:

    @Walker: Not only that, there are other cases where it isn’t an ad hominem, it is calling them stupid for believing in stupid things. It is not a logical fallacy to say “you’re stupid if you don’t believe in global warming”. It’s only a logical fallacy if you say, “global warming is true because you are stupid.”

  79. 79
    Kay says:

    @NickT:

    I read that they don’t like the term “austerity”. They think it’s unfair or unflattering or something, so they’re even denying THAT, let alone “sadist.”

    I personally love “austerian”. Even better!

  80. 80
    NickT says:

    @Kay:

    I kinda like auto-erotic austero-sadist, but Krugman’s sadomonetarist is pretty damn hard to beat.

  81. 81
    Marmot says:

    Late to this party. But Lane is seriously trying to deliver a J-Skool 101 lecture after writing that James Buchanan showed that stimulus is too lasting? I mean, Krugman put that rationale in its grave only two columns ago. Basic journalism ideally involves some research and critical thought, no?

  82. 82
    NickT says:

    @Marmot:

    To be fair, Lane has probably only just signed up for the Journalism 101 podcast.

  83. 83
    wenchacha says:

    When somebody concern trolls with, “when I was in school, I was taught _____,” they sound like they must have really dug being the school Hall Monitor.

  84. 84
    I_am_a_lead_pencil says:

    “…they typically glorify some ostensibly pro-austerity dead intellectual luminary, like economist James Buchanan or political scientist Mancur Olson, but without numbers or measurement of any kind.”

    Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality.

    Said by Tesla in 1934. Today, the social science of economics is just this – and if it didn’t already support your positions, you’d agree.

  85. 85
    Anna in PDX says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Love that – I posted it to facebook.

  86. 86
    Howlin Wolfe says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I feel no need to be polite to people who piss down my neck and tell me it’s raining. It is most uncivil to lie to anyone about important matters. Kinsley can’t make shit up and then expect people to politely tell him he’s, ahem, full of shite. How do you politely tell someone that they are intellectually lazy, and the consequences of this laziness are tantamount to lying, and the lying is not just a matter of a moral scorecard somewhere in the sky, but has long term and, in some cases, fatal consequences.

  87. 87
    DRN0001 says:

    CORRECTION. DMJ now concedes that this post does not accurately reflect Mr. Lane’s views on “austerity”.
    http://www.balloon-juice.com/2.....t-of-view/

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